We finally finish off our look at current Asian rankings this week with a look at the Heavyweight division, which surprisingly a lot, lot deeper than both the Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight divisions. The reality is that the division still isn't amazing, and it actually a truly frustrating one, but is a lot deeper than the two division's we've just mentioned.
1-Zhang Zhilei (21-0, 16)
The leading Asian Heavyweight right now is Chinese veteran Zhang Zhilei, who has proven himself more in the professional ranks than anyone else from the area. He's 37 years old now, and has likely missed the boat of a major fight. Despite that he's very talented, looks very natural in the ring and is a very skilled, surprisingly quick boxer-puncher. Sadly his best win so far is his 2019 victory over Andriy Rudenko and given his age it's unlikely we'll see him really taking on anyone big before his body begins to break down and retirement calls. Interestingly there had been talk of him fighting Anthony Joshua but that talk now looks to be completely dead.
2-Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)
We stick with giants as we go to US based Uzbek giant Bakhodir Jalolov. At the moment Jalolov hasn't fully committed to the professional ranks, hence why he has only fought 6 times in the professionals since his debut in May 2018. He has, however, been busy in the amateurs and in 2019 he won the World Amateur Championships and clearly has been staying busy. He is a big hope for the 2020, or should that be 2021, Olympics. At the age of 25, he turns 26 later this month, Jalolov has time on his side, he's huge, very skilled, a big puncher and has surprising fluidity for such a big man. We'd love to see him fully commit to the professional ranks, and when he does he's going to be a big star.
3-Ivan Dychko (9-0, 9)
Another giant, and former amateur standout, is Ivan Dychko, a Kazakh with so much potential that many tipped him as a major star when he turned professional in 2017. Sadly his amateur credentials are now looking like a part of history and in the 3 years that Dychko has been a professional he has really just has frustration after frustration. He's a proper giant, at around 6'9", a smooth operator with power, speed and skills, and like Jalolov is very fluid for such a big man. Sadly inactivity, bouts falling through, poor competition and nothing really going his way has left him really feeling like a man with lost potential. His biggest win to date was his 2019 victory over Ray Austin and it feels like his career should be a long, long way further than it is. A talent, but a talent that is being badly wasted.
4-Mahammadrasul Majidov (2-0, 2)
Another Asian former amateur stand out is Azeri banger Mahammadrasul Majidov. The 33 year old looks like to be fast tracked, given his age and links to Matchroom, and has got the strong amateur background to be moved rapidly through the ranks. Sadly Majidov turned professional too late to see what he can really do and really build a professional standing, though he is blessed with brutal power, under-rated skills and frightening physical strength. Given that Majidov was never the quickest we don't think he'll age quickly, but we do feel he's turned pro too young to get the experience he needs to reach the top of the sport. Fingers crossed, however, that Majidov's professional career will light a fire under the backsides of top Azeri amateur to turn professional when they still have time to make a mark on the pros.
5-Zhan Kossobutskiy (13-0, 12)
Technically Zhan Kossobutskiy has done more than most in this list, and is more proven as a professional than almost everyone in this top 10. Despite that he's not looking like the natural talent that a Dychko or Jalolov has. Instead he's looked a bit raw, and has been taking on fighters generally on short notice. Despite the complaints about his competition 31 year old has been busy, with 4 fights in 2019, including a career best win over the then 15-0 Agron Smakici for a minor IBF title. Given his age, and now experience, we expect to see him step up this year, especially he's now backed be a rather strong promotional team. We expect to see Kossobutskiy fighting at a higher level, but it's hard to see him getting a world title fight any time soon.
6-Ruslan Myrsatayev (7-0, 6)
Another Kazakh making his way into our top 10 is Ruslan Myrsatayev, who is 35 years old and has likely missed the bout to make an impact at a higher level. His best win to date is a KO win over British veteran Danny Williams last year, and since then he has seen his KO run come to an end, being taken 8 rounds by Yury Bykhautsou. Although not the most talented Myrsatayev is a fight with heavy hands, and a decent work rate, but nothing exceptional and we could easily see him losing to fighters below him who make the most of his slowness. From here on we expect him to slow further and really only expect him to slide down the rankings, and not do much of note. Again a shame he turned pro so late as he could have been in some interesting fights just a few years ago.
7-Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-2, 13)
Former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Kyotaro Fujimoto is one of the more well known names on this list. He was a K1 fighter, the first Japanese national champion in a general and a man splattered by Daniel Dubois last year in the UK. Sadly he's also a man who was looking like a big fish in a little pond. Technically he's actually not a bad fighter, but he's also not a particularly impressive one. He's often negative in the ring, relying on his speed and movement, sadly when he's facing a quicker fighter that big advantage is neutralised and he lacks the power to get respect of opponents. It's great to see a Japanese Heavyweight try and do something on a bigger stage, but the reality is that Fujimoto hasn't got the toughness, chin, size or power to make a mark against the better fighters, even the better Asian fighters.
8-Ryu Ueda (9-1-1, 5)
It's hard to know how good Ryu Ueda can become, but at the moment his ceiling looks low. He's the current Japanese Heavyweight champion, claiming the title last year when he beat Kotatsu Takehara in their second bout. He looks the part physically, and is a big, athletic looking guy, but sadly he's relatively uncoordinated and when he gets in the ring the natural athletic ability one would assume he has is lacking. He doesn't look comfortable in the ring. At the age of 28 there is room for improvement, but it's hard to see him improving much and he really is lucky the Japanese scene is very weak at the division.
9-Eric Pen (6-0, 5)
American born Cambodian Eric Pen is a very interesting fighter in some ways, but like many Asian Heavyweights his potential to make a mark at the higher levels is very, very limited. Pen is the current WBA Asia champion but his competition so far has been dire and his last win, over Alexander Bajawa came against a very out of shape fighter. It's impossible to know how good Pen is given how easily matched he's been. Saying that however we would love to see him fight Ueda in what would, on paper, be a big step up in class for Pen.
10-Yunlong Shi (1-0, 1)
Chinese Heavyweight Yunlong Shi might not have been a success in WSB but he impressed in his professional boxing debut last year, stopping Pawel Sowik in 2 rounds in Poland. Unlike many fighters on this list he's actually based in European, with a Polish team behind him. It's hard to know just how good Shi is, but we were impressed by his debut, and wouldn't be betting against him against Pen or Ueda. It's still very early in his career and he looks like someone to actually be quite excited about. Again very, very early days, but he has size and skills, and on his debut he showed decent power, albeit against a very limited opponent.
One of the many things we're wanting to try in 2019 is a weekly news review, looking at the most interesting news stories from the last 7 days. For the same of this news won't include things like weigh ins and results, but instead things like announcements of fights, comebacks, deaths and other more general news from the week that's been.
We won't go into any of the stories in depth, leaving a link to the relevant story, but will quickly give our take on the news.
So without further ado, let us bring the 1st Asian Boxing Weekly News Review!
Srisaket to DAZN not yet a done deal! Still set to return in February
After strong speculation that WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น] had inked a deal with DAZN it was revealed he hadn't....yet! He is in deep negotiations with the streaming service but hasn't inked anything yet, with a decision expected to be made shortly. What was also confirmed is that he would be fighting in a tune up bout on February 8th, in Thailand, before facing mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada in the Spring. At the moment the opponent for Srisaket's opponent hasn't been announced, but will be before the end of the month, suggesting it's a limited foe, potentially an experienced regional journeyman.
WBSS announcements to be made next week!
After weeks of fans asking when the WBSS semi-final bouts would be taking place we finally saw the Sauerlands react, and announce that an announcement would be made next week. It's unclear when in the week the announcement will be made but to have a time frame of "next week" is good enough to get us a little bit excited. The rumours were that early March had been targeted but it now seems like the shows have slipped to April or May, though we're genuinely glad that we'll see things being made public very shortly! We'll file this in the rarely used "Glad there was an announcement about an announcement", folder
Sirimongkol to return to the ring...as a Heavyweight!
The biggest "What the fuck?" story of the week came from Thailand, as multiple sources informed us that former WBC Bantamweight and Super Featherweight champion Sirimongkol Singwancha (96-4, 61) [ศิริมงคล สิงห์วังชา] would be back in the ring in the coming weeks, as a Heavyweight! The enigmatic Thai was a fantastic fighter in his prime, but he is more than a decade removed from his prime and more than 20 years removed from losing the WBC Bantamweight to Joichiro Tatsuyoshi in an amazing fight in 1997! Sirimongkol, now in his 40's, is only 5'6" and will look ridiculous fighting at over 200lbs, but we suspect he's going to be very softly matched.
Mishiro to defend OPBF title against Watanabe!
A pretty good, though possibly missed, announcement came out over the weekend from Dangan, who announced the OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) [三代大訓] will defending his title on March 27th against OPBF "silver" champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) [渡邉卓也]. Whilst neither man is a huge name outside of Asia it's hard to not be excited here. Both are fun to watch, have plenty of skill and throw a lot of punches. Neither is world class, though Mishiro has certainly shown the potential to get their already in his short career, but they should make for a genuinely spectacular fight to headline Dangan 221.
Ryohei Takahashi will continue his career following loss to TJ Doheny!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-4-1, 6) [高橋竜平] revealed that his career will not end following his loss to world champion TJ Doheny earlier this month. Although it's not a huge surprise to hear that the 28 year old, soon to be 29 year old, would be continuing his career it's still good to hear and he will certainly be a good addition to the Japanese domestic scene. Bouts between Takahashi and the likes of Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Hidenori Otake would be very enjoyable, whilst rematches with Kazuki Tanaka and Yuki Iriguchi would certainly be more than welcome.
Denver Cuello set to return in March!
Former world title challenger Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) was once touted as a future star of the smaller divisions. Sadly injuries hampered him, badly, and clearly harmed his chances against Xiong Zhao Zhong in 2013. Since then he has hardly fought, due to in part to his being banged up. This week however Ian Melodillar reported that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, as fights for the first time in years. It's hard to know what Cuello has left but if the 32 year is half the fighter he once was he could make for another interesting addition to the ranks in any of the lower weights. He's likely missed out on getting a world title, but adds some name value and more Filipino interest to the lower weights.
Ivan Dychko eyeing March 1st return!
Also looking at a March return is Kazakh Heavyweight Ivan Dychko (7-0, 7) [Дычко Иван]. Dychko's manager revealed that his charge would be looking to return in March 1st, likely in Florida. The bout will be Dychko's first since July 2018, and frustratingly his activity seems to have been with his promotional team as he's not been injured, and instead has been seeing bouts fall through due to reasons outside of his hands. It's been a very frustrating year for the fighter and his fans. Given his amateur credentials there is no reason for him to have been matched the way he has, and hopefully 2019 will see him being busy and taking on some serious tests, rather than continuing to waste time with mismatches and promotional frustrations.
Iwao Hakamada manga to be released
Former fighter Shigemi Mori along with Hideko Hakamada held a news conference this week to reveal a new Manga being released this year to try and raise the attention of Iwao Hakamada's, Hideko's brother, situation. Mr Hakamada, now 82, served 48 years for a quadruple murder in 1966 and spent much of that time in solitary confinement on death row. Although he was released in 2014, Hakamada is still awaiting a retrial, which could see his sentence being reinstated. The manga is set to be released in 8 page sections on a monthly basis from February 15th and will be translated for an international audience with the plan also being to put it on to youtube, to further international attention.
Despite the Heavyweighg division being regarded as the blue ribbon division, and the most significant, historically, their has never really been a huge surge in Asian fighters making their mark there. The South East Asian fighters their body types don't really suit Heavyweight boxing, with average weight and height being a long way from the behemoths that rule the roost in boxing's heaviest divisions.
Thankfully however the last few year's we've seen more and more Central Asian fighters turning professional, and with that we've finally started to see an emergence in genuine Heavyweight prospects from the region. At the moment we have several and whilst some of those are "old" for prospects the division has suddenly got a real interest for Asian fight fans.
Bakhodir Jalolov (3-0, 3)
Uzbek hopeful Bakhodir Jalolov is the youngest man to make it on to this list, and the 24 year old giant really is a modern day Heavyweight monster. Stood at over 6'6", reports suggest he's anything from 6'6" to 6'9", and fighting out of the southpaw stance Jalolov is a long term project at Heavyweight, but one that looks to have a lot of naturally exciting traits added to a strong amateur background.
As an amateur Jalolov shone, winning a World Amateur Championship bronze medal in 2015, as a 21 year old, before competing at the 2016 Olympics and then claiming the 2017 Asian Championships gold medal.
There's plenty of tall rangy Heavyweights out there right now, but there's very few with Jalolov's power, explosiveness, quickness or the southpaw stance, all of which combine to make a very promising young heavyweight. Sadly though his handlers seem to be wanting to guide him slowly and since his debut in May he has stopped all of his opponents, in a combined 8 rounds. Fingers crossed that stiffer competition will come his way in 2019.
Ivan Dychko (7-0, 7)
If Jalolov is to be lauded for his amateur achievements then they pale in comparison to 28 year old Kazakh Ivan Dychko, a 2-time Olympian, winning a Bronze medal in 2012, a 2-time World Amateur Championship silver medal winner and a genuine amateur stand out. Not only was he an exceptional amateur but like Jalolov he is a physical freak and also stands at around 6'9". Not only is he huge but he also has a terrifying aura around him, which will put fear into low level opponents.
At 28 there isn't years to develop Dychko, but there isn't that much that really needs developing. His amateur style was pretty pro-ready and he could well end up fighting in minor title bouts in 2019. He's naturally quick, heavy handed and very fluid for such a big man. The one big question about physical traits is his chin, and he was stopped in frightening fashion by Magomedrasul Majidov at the 2013 World Amateur Championships.
As well as a potentially suspect chin Dychko also seems to have a problem with his match making, His first 7 bouts, spaced out over 15 months, have lasted a combined 11 rounds, and he has only been beyond round 1 in 2 of his 7 professional bouts. He was supposed to have his 8th bout in November but that fell through and he'll now be out of the ring until the new year, prolonging his step up.
Zhan Kossobutskiy (7-0, 6)
As we mentioned it's the central Asian fighters who are making a mark as prospects, and some are older than a typical prospect. That includes 30 year old Kazakh hopeful Zhan Kossobutskiy, who made his debut in September 2017 and has slowly been building a reputation on the European circuit, with bouts in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Sadly, given his age, the time for developmental fights should be long gone and standing at 6'3" he's a relative dwarf compared to them fighters at the top of the division.
Footage of Kossobutskiy shows a heavy handed fighter who is explosive, well schooled and promising. Sadly though he is older than most of the rising hopefuls in the division, he's also shorter than many and lacks the impressive international level amateur credentials of many contemporaries.
[Note - Kossobutskiy will fight on November 29th]
Damir Toybay (0-0)
Another Kazakh, and a bit more of a wild card, is youngster Damir Toybay, who is still an amateur and doesn't appear to be in a rush to turn professional. Whilst he's not in a rush to fight for pay he is certainly worth a note here given the 2018 he has had, which has included winning the Asian Junior Championships in Thailand in April, and coming runner up in both the AIBA Youth World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.
Toybay is still young but is clearly a prodigy and we're looking forward to him turning professional, one day. Even if that day is in 5 or 6 years time we're still looking forward to it.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).